Albert Camus said that integrity has no need of rules.
KPMG in their 2008-09 integrity survey conclude that there is a real need for integrity in the workplace.
The survey reports that 3700 out of 5000 employees say they have seen or know of wrong doing or misconduct in the workplace.
Wrong doing in this case refers to activities that break moral or civil law in any of the following ways:
- Any wrongdoing for which an action for damages may be brought
- Improper professional conduct
- Willful negligence
- Doing an proper act in a wrongful or injurious way
- Wrongful conduct by a public official
- Perverting something (turning it into a wrong use)
- Improper or wicked or immoral behavior
- An act that makes people cruel or lacking normal human qualities (Brutalization)
- Or it could simply mean a wrongful action that could be attributable to bad judgment or ignorance or inattention
Misconduct, on the other hand, is a more commonly understood legal term that means wrongful, improper, or unlawful conduct. Minor misconduct is unacceptable but not criminal (e.g. being late) while gross misconduct can lead to dismissal, (e.g. stealing).
The survey results are a stunning.There exists within the workplace a systemic problem.
The report continues by stating that 46% of the employees have observed conduct that could result in a significant loss of public trust. This public trust it can be assumed would translate into financial losses through the loss of market share through erosion of customer, shareholder, and employee or supplier confidence.
KPMG advances its investigation into work place integrity by seeking to reveal the cause of wrong doing and misconduct. The following are the root causes identified by survey respondents;
- Pressures to do whatever it takes to meet business targets (59%)
- Belief that they will be rewarded for results and not the means (52%)
- Uncertainty over the rules (51%)
- Lack of resources to get their job done (50%)
- Fear of losing their jobs if targets not meant (49%)
- Policies and procedures are easy to over ride or ignore (47%)
- Bend rules for personal gain (32%)
To alleviate the problem for organizations, KPMG focuses its efforts on the top four areas: pressure to get results, rewards for results, uncertainty and lack of resources.
These four areas are in reality one- a results orientated culture that is supported by an ill defined, unenforced or ignored code of conduct.
KPMG then proposes a countermeasure strategy of detection, reporting and responding to misconduct. Integrity, within this approach, it can be concluded, is defined by the absence of misconduct and wrong doing. The path forward then is behavioral change through compliance.
This is noteworthy but limited. It fails to address two questions.
Is there a better definition of integrity?
What is the correlation between integrity and performance?
Camus defines integrity as having no need for rules. This is an ideal state that needs a practical application.
We define integrity as wholeness, unfolding and objectivity.
The practical application of this definition is: do the right thing, do the next right thing and do things right. It is the ethical based foundation that everyone can relate to on a very practical level.
This definition applies individually and collectively throughout the organization, including all processes and systems.
The definition is constant. Do the next right thing is the requisite outcome for each successive action in the organization. This requires the reinforcement of those actions over time that continuously improve the people and the performance of the organization, of the community and of the environment.
Objectivity is freedom from bias. It is the ultimate standard of all business activity. Objectivity promotes the elimination of wasteful and inefficient practices. Objectivity is the cornerstone of governance, transparency and responsibility with an outcome of sustainability.
Integrity, as KPMG indicates, is wanting in today’s organizations. The problem is not detecting and controlling organizational integrity but rather building an integrity based culture where doing the right thing and doing things right creates the pursuit of excellence culture needed for sustainability. The critical aspect of building an integrity based culture is based on the reality that integrity correlates with performance.
Integrity cannot be mandated or controlled. It is a personal choice of every employee. It is a cultural value that is embedded in every action. In the KPMG study virtually all employees knew the right thing to do but feel they exist within a culture that does not value integrity or doing the right thing. This is not a problem but an untapped opportunity for success.
Every organization has a degree of integrity. The correlation between the degree of integrity and performance is a not secret but a well understood phenomena. Every organization enjoys the rewards of its integrity. In the marketplace, integrity is a critical factor in customer attraction and retention. In the organization, integrity is a critical factor in employee engagement and optimization
Why then do leaders believe that a compliance approach based on detection and reporting is the answer? It is easy; they believe that integrity needs rules. They also do not believe that integrity and performance have a correlation.
This means that they believe that doing the right thing, doing the next right thing and doing things the right way doesn’t work in business.
I beg to differ.
Want to learn more? Contact me at 706-267-0609. I want to speak to you about integrity and how it can help you and all of us.
Douglas Ross is an advocate for the promotion of integrity as a strategy for performance.
© 2010 All Rights Reserved, Douglas Ross, Principle Dynamics Consulting Inc.